Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Hate crimes & gender (by Suzie)

          The House has passed the Matthew Shepard Act, which “would expand the 1969 United States federal hate-crime law to include crimes motivated by a victim's actual or perceived gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, or disability.” It awaits Senate approval.
          The attention over this bill has centered on hate crimes against gay or transgendered people. I’m thankful to LGBT groups for pushing its passage. But I’m concerned when these groups and others disappear male violence against women as women.
          Check out the information from the Human Rights Campaign. It doesn’t feel compelled to discuss violence against women, unless they are lesbian, bi or trans. It focuses on its particular issues. In contrast, a feminist organization like NOW could not limit itself to gender without being criticized.
         An NYT editorial endorsing the Matthew Shepard Act talks about protecting the rights of minority groups, but women aren’t a minority. The editorial says African-Americans suffer the most from hate crimes. Actually, women of all races suffer the most, but many states don’t include gender and thus, we aren’t counted.
          Even when people are on our side, even when they have done important work that will benefit us, we cannot allow them to define terms in ways that marginalize us.
          I’ve written about this before.